5 Questions With Laura Lentz of Culinary Advisors

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1. What led you to a career in foodservice design?
I always dreamed of working in a restaurant. When I was young, I set up bufflet dinners for my family on our ironing board and even participated in a 4-H napkin folding contest. I followed that passion and went into the hospitality sector after college, managing a restaurant and later an inn. But both of my parents were architects and I grew up around their conversations, so I guess there was a bigger plan in motion from early on. So, when a college friend called and offered a job in foodservice consulting, I was intrigued and took it. That career change led me to find my passion. I love what I do because it feels like it’s something new every day. I’m constantly learning, I get to be creative and I feel like I am using all the parts of my brain.

2. How does your operations experience impact your current work in design?
I’m constantly pulling from my experience in the kitchen when working with clients. For example, I worked at a Boy Scout camp one summer with the world’s tiniest mop sink that made cleanup miserable. So now when I see a tight fit for a mop sink, I recommend not doing it if you can avoid it. Having been the end user myself, I understand where design elements can make a big impact.

3. You’re also part of the faculty of the Foodservice Design BootCamp, one of many places you share your knowledge with others. Why is this important to you?
Whether I’m working with operators at BootCamp, making a presentation at MUFES or teaching design at Cornell University, I relish the opportunity to help people understand what our industry is all about. It’s a way to get the word out about career opportunities, what’s new in the industry and what drives us as designers. An added bonus is that through teaching I also get to learn new things that I can apply to my work.

4. As a mom of two young daughters, what do you hope to be able to pass on to them?
I love my job and wouldn’t be myself if I had to give that up to raise my girls. They see me as their mom, but I also want them to understand my life as a professional. I bring them to work with me (at home), introduce them to other people in our company, and let them see the things I’m learning at work and am able to do in my profession. It’s important to me that they see all sides of my life and understand how it all fits together to make me who I am as a person.

5. What is your favorite foodservice equipment and why?
My choice at the moment has to be the American plancha. It’s like what would happen if a plancha and a griddle had a baby. I love that it’s able to do more than one thing. You can use high heat for searing meats, and you can also cook a pancake on it. But it’s not over the top, trying to do the work of four or more types of equipment; it’s versatile yet simple.

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